"They called my name and I just walked out. I couldn't go through with it. I thought, 'What am I giving up?'...I don't think I can do it."

"It's alright," he took her hand in his, relieved that she was finally letting him in. "Just talk to me."

"I'm not gonna do it."

He squeezed her hand, gently sealing their fate, "Okay."
The car ride home following her decision was awkward. Justin kept stealing glances at Julia whose eyes were glued to the world beyond the passenger side window. He sighed, arbitrarily fiddling with the car radio even though he knew it was as broken as it was the day before. Only one day earlier they'd laughed at the faces he'd made when trying to fix it while at the McDonald's drive-in, grabbing a bite to eat before heading to a local elementary school to tutor for National Honor Society points. Yesterday their greatest concerns had been reading to snot-nosed kids so that they could graduate on-stage with honors next spring. Today their concerns had turned sharper, becoming suddenly so much greater. However great, Justin understood that they'd have to take everything day by day, one step at a time.
Julia stood before her full length mirror, touching her stomach trying to picture what was to come when Claudia burst into the room, giggling at something Bailey was yelling to her, an inside joke from a Pauley Shore movie. She pointed to the phone beside her bed, "God Julia are you deaf? The phone's been ringing all night for you. It's your boyfriend."

"Claudia can you knock?" she snapped, "Tell him I'm not home alright."

"Jeez, yes your majesty, and would you also like me to fluff your royal pillows?" she quipped before shutting the door behind her.

"Good one Claud," laughed Bailey from his bedroom.

Julia locked the door behind her and returned to her reflection. She struggled to make sense of it as tears welled in her eyes. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to her, the honor student. What would everyone think of her when she really did show? More importantly, what would her parents think? What if they were there to see her like this? They would have been so disappointed.

"Julia!" boomed Charlie as his feet thudded up the stairs, "Julia!"

Julia's attentions were jerked to the door behind which stood her eldest brother, frantically twisting the knob and pounding the door like a maniac. Annoyed, she yanked open the door, "What the hell is your problem?"

"We gotta talk. Now."


Charlie ticked his head behind his shoulder eyeing Claudia and Bailey who eagerly peered from Bailey's bedroom to see what was going on, anticipating a juicy Julia/Charlie throw-down. He shut the door behind him.

"What Charlie? What the hell is going on?"

He opened his jacket and pulled a slender box from the inner pocket, the empty box from her pregnancy test, "I was taking out the trash."

Julia faltered. She was prepared to be angry. In fact she wanted to fight. But with this there was nothing to say. She quietly sat down on her bed, pulling a pillow onto her lap.

Now calmer, he asked, "Well, what is this Julia?"

"Charlie you know exactly what it is."

He shook his head at her defeated mannerisms and tone, she scared him, "Julia, please tell me that you are not..."

A book on the vanity caught her attention. The Motorcyclist's Guide to Zen ,it was recommended reading from Justin. It'd been sitting there for a while and all she'd read so far was the back cover. Any of her extra reading time had always been spent on the phone with Justin, or daydreaming about Justin, or lying in Justin's arms. She wondered if she'd ever get around to reading it now.

"Please answer me."

She took her time answering him, looking into his eyes, watching as his hopes for the response he wanted to hear drained away, "I'm sorry."

Charlie sat beside her, placing his hand over his mouth, "Me too."

"Julia, what...?" He stopped, let the question fall to the ground. He started again, "How...?"

The Garfield clock Charlie had given her for her tenth birthday ticked amid the stifling silence. Charlie was dumbfounded, and Julia was too ashamed to speak.

He stood up, almost whispering, "God Julia, I can't even....I don't even know what to say. This-this is not you."

She shrugged, almost lifelessly.

"I can't even begin to deal with this," he walked to the door shaking his head, "What can I...?"

Again his question lost itself somewhere between his mind and his lips. He left the room without finishing his sentence, gently closing the door behind him.
"I guess you wanna ride the bus, huh Julia?!" Bailey shouted, angry at his sister's sudden slowness. It was so unlike her, normally she was the one pulling the covers off of him before finally leaving with Justin. Last night however she had very adamantly told Bailey that she was riding to school with him. Bailey knew that something was going on with them; he assumed it had something to do with Griffin's unannounced visit the week before. He briefly pondered how he and his siblings managed to lead such complicated love lives before shouting, "That's it Jule, call Justin, hop on the bus, call a cab, whatever I'm out of here. I gotta meet Sarah early."

"No! No, I'm coming, I'm here," she shouted as here feet hurried down the stairs. She was wearing the same jeans from the night before with a wrestling t-shirt Bailey had begged her to buy for a fundraiser, a t-shirt she usually save for occasions of grandeur such as sleeping or cleaning the bathroom. Her hair was uncombed, but a brush was ready in her right hand. She had no make-up on and her face was decidedly puffy, "I'm ready."

"Did Miss Perfect oversleep?"

"Shut-up, Bailey."

Outside Justin pulled up just as Julia threw her bag into Bailey's jeep.

"Lemme drive you to school Julia,"

With a clearly forced smile, she said, "No it's okay, I'm gonna ride with Bailey. I'm already in the car; we'll talk in Calculus okay? Bye."

Bailey watched Justin's face drop as they pulled out of the driveway. If an image of Sarah's waiting face didn't burn into his mind he would've asked Julia what was going on.

At school Julia avoided Justin at every turn. She ignored him through Calculus, "I'm just trying to pay attention. I'm having trouble with the chapter," she had lied. At lunch she palled around with Sarah, much to Bailey's dismay, b.s.-ing about an English assignment that she didn't really need help with. Her main goal for the day had been to avoid Justin while not allowing herself to be alone. She forced herself to keep busy, not wanting to think about what was most important.

Finally Justin cornered her as she was heading to the library to research during her free period. He stopped her in the hall, leading her into the yearbook room, "We gotta talk."

"We will, I just—I gotta go to the library right now."

"It can wait." He shut the door behind them in the developing room, and he was struck by an eerie reminder of the time the two had been locked in the same room almost exactly a year before. Back then they both were always searching for an excuse to be alone together, to fool around, to learn what made the other moan. Now they knew each other's bodies intimately, yet Julia didn't want to be anywhere near him, and, while Justin was still in constant pursuit of her, the mood had changed drastically. It hurt him as he watched her roll her eyes at him and drop her backpack on the ground in defeat like she didn't want anything to do with him, like he was vile. At least before when she was avoiding him she was aloof and discrete about her feelings, now she was downright hostile.

"What? What do you want from me?"

"I want you to talk to me, please," he started to reach for her then thought better of it, raking his fingers through his hair, "We gotta talk about this. Don't shut me out."

Julia sighed, the anger falling from her shoulders, replacing itself with grief. She was quiet for a long time.

"I love you Julia."

"That doesn't make this any easier."

This time he did take her hand, "I think it does. You say you wanna keep it and that's fine. I'm happy. We'll have a baby, me and you. I'm here and I'm ready...okay I'm not ready, but I will be. And let's be honest, in your heart you knew we'd have kids together anyway. I know you did. After all, we're engaged to be engaged," he smiled, "so it's a little early...we—"

"A little early? Justin we're barely seventeen," her voice cracked, "I can't talk about this."

Justin pulled her into his arms as she began to cry, and he fought the urge to cry with her. As her body sullenly trembled within his embrace, he held on to her tighter, imagining the man he wanted to become, and then he knew, he just knew that he would be able to do this, to be a man, to take care of everything, "We're gonna be okay."

His warm hands wiped away her tears and replaced them with gentle kisses, "We can do this Jule. We can stay at my house as long as we need to. I'll go to the office today, right now, and find out what we need to graduate early. We're basically done with this year and all that's required for next year is English 4 and Government, everything else is electives anyway. We could finish that in summer school. And maybe-"

He felt her chest begin to heave against his as her breathing became ragged again, a panic taking over her, "Justin aren't you scared?? All of that is so fast! I can't even—"

"Relax, relax," he cooed, reading her mind, "Then we'll take this one step, one day at a time, at least at first. We'll take this slow."

Julia calmed herself, taking deep breaths. She stood quiet, listening to Justin's heartbeat in her ear. While her fears were far from gone, the warmth she felt in his arms along with the certainty of his voice made her feel safe. She looked into his eyes, for the first seeing that he was just as scared as her, and again she let him wipe away her tears, "I love you."

Justin sighed with relief, "I love you too."

Welp....whaddya think?? Review, review!! Chapter two is coming soon!